Ratatosk Tells a Tale

“Do you think I was alone
when I hung on that windswept
tree nine nights, spear-heavy,
a sacrifice unto myself?”

“Never.”

“Frigga was my altar.”

Images flow through my mind of a young Odin, drenched in blood and wolfskins, Ratatosk at his shoulder as he drives his spear into the carrion of the slain, choosing only the choicest bits to go to Valhalla. The Valkyries carry away the Einherjar in a wine-dark ascendancy in sulfur skies.

The Alfather hangs from a yew. Ratatosk nibbles his one eye. The other is closed, turned inwards, meditative even. The globe of blue and blood will fall into a well, for squirrels plant seeds, and you can drink the gore from and know what Frigga sees from the High Seat, but it will cost you your life, and your tongue.

All it took was the beat of the buffalo drum, and I was under, swimming in a trance as my soul traveled the three upon threefold path. It’s a Valknut, it’s the ladder of runes, it’s just a poem. Yggdrasil blossomed and froze and all there was was the Light Elves, the Dark Elves, Freyr – or was it Balder? – being buried by the squirrel with curling golden locks, pale as death, to fructify the Earth.

“I am the Tree.”

“I am its guardian.”

“I plant seeds of Yggdrasil through all the Nine Worlds.”

Squirrels never shut up, do they? Neither do I. Perhaps the first poet was a squirrel spinning a story over a newly born sprout, urging it to grow, for though fierce and silly, Ratatosk is a gardener.

He chitters in my ear. The Blue Heron comes and says: impatience, but it is not my message. I get Odin again and again. Pretty soon I’ll be singing Ansuz and firing witchlight from my palms.

The visions soften, I awaken, but the Tree is still sentinel over my wanderings.

The drum stills.

Behind every regent, a powerful woman. Behind every warrior, a witch. Behind every dead man, animals planting their corpses into new life in another world. Behind every king, a queen he worships.

But I could just be bullshitting, for I am a squirrel.

Dr. Angel

I am in a cathedral of caverns, saltwater swells
Michael’s tears have formed stalagmites, I sink
into an ocean of blue serenity, fly up dew wet
through realms and galaxies to a hospital bed
where my archangel is dressed up in scrubs and
glasses, a crystal stethoscope across his neck,
healing hands glowing with violet light as he
soothes a chemotherapy patient, he takes fingers
thick from war and massages out etheric knots of
cancerous poison, cleanses the dear brother of
my second mother of the mutant cells, sings tenor
to bless and ward the hospital room, I join him
at Michael’s urging and we weave together long
years – not of survival, but of flourishing, I
ask Michael if this is a miracle, he says it is
beyond simple magic but science, faith, prayers,
the combination of alchemy and Hippocratic fruits
wedded with seraphic wisdom saves a precious life,
once we have cleansed my kindred brother of poison
we join hands and pray, Michael bathes the room
in light like a star’s heart, the patient rests,
smiles, perhaps he knows his family’s heartwhispers
summoned the Prince of Angels, or perhaps he dreams
of long summer days and Tidewater meadows, Virginia
honesty and siblings that will never leave his side,
I am so honored to witness the Lazarus raising angel
at work, once my gythia said Michael could clear a
whole hospital of evil spirits, but even one room is
a brilliant candle of hope and renewal, a life saved
to taste fresh fruit and hold sister’s hands, to dance
again like God wanted, to fish in the James River and
while long hours away on a Southern sweet porch swing –
Michael takes me behind the hospital curtain, holds me
and says he will defend every sickbed with his life,
no matter if they are sinner, saint, dying or brimming
with faith, Michael answers every prayer, and we rest
in the space between worlds, watching billions of hearts
that I love Love Himself is difficult to fathom, and yet
his hands fits in mine, he is infinity, I fall in love
with the servant of all humankind, first to bow, last
to ever give up – if you are in need, call on Michael.

Odin’s Cloak

Gray-blue are the cosmos, ice your beard –
Ansuz etches chainmail on my skin, cloak
of wind-blown wisdom laces like a corset
I am protected at the heart of the storm
in a cocoon of galdr and Gangleri’s eye,
blue blue blue iris, it casts off evil,
and I am slow dancing with thunder, I
breathe in petrichor and exhale lightning:
Alfather, save a place in your hall for me.

On Mother-God and the Divine Feminine

Since I was a child, I have felt this heady intoxicating force in the presence of Nature.  An animist, I believe in nature spirits and spirits of the place – I’ve met leshys, Wakinyan Tanka, Coyote, Crow, nymphs, and other beings, or animal guardians like vulture kings and the wolves Hati and Skoll who chased me through frozen wastes and fjords.

Reigning over all beings I know, all gods, angels, and demons, is the faceless Mother.  She has come to me in visions veiled head to toe on a throne in a smoky cave hidden by shadow, her voice like whipping wind and smelling of dirt, green shoots, wet bone and wild woods.

There is a reason Neolithic Venus figurines are faceless – the Mother cannot take human form, not like the angels, gods, demons, or spirits I know.  As the Archangel Michael told me “When She appears, She will Die.”  I jokingly asked him to show me God a few weeks ago because I had never met Him – to my surprise, it was a Her.

Michael said I would die if I saw her, so he covered my eyes and snatched my soul from my body in the vision, then took me to Her Presence.  This, he said, was the Holy Spirit, the Shekinah.  Samael had joked about the Shekinah being far more than Yahweh, she the stage on which gods played their lives, the eldritch Mother of All, and though I brushed him off for years, now you can count me a believer that there is no greater power than Mother Nature, Queen of the Cosmos.  The only way I could communicate the most powerful vision I have ever had was through poetry – not even visions of the War in Heaven, Eden, Original Sin, or my own supposed past deaths and future lives terrorized me as much as the Holy Power of the Mother:

“When you see Her you will die,”
Michael whispers in my ear, puts his
peacock hands over my eyes, then
takes me RUSH BLOW BOOM to Her.

God-Mother is ells tall, pine-barren
lumber over a waterfall, windblown
boulders in a storm, gale in the
reeds, eye of the tempest, heart
of a firestorm inferno, rainy marsh.

I cannot see, I cannot see Her, just
smell loam and smoke, She is All,
She is All, and we are just playthings
in Her inexorable crystal dove hands.

There are some things even angels
cannot fathom, some Mothers eat
their young, Death is just Her maw
the Earth Her womb, I am blind, blind
so in love, heartdrenched, when my
hourglass breaks, oh, then
I’ll see – “You will Know.”

Until then, we dance, waltzing
on the Holy Spirit’s lips.

She communicates in heady visions of storms, wildfires, tsunamis, great abysses in the sea, calamitous guts of Nature spilled out upon her altar.  She is the Great Womb, Great Maw, and Great Death – you are reborn and remade and destroyed in Her arms, all at once.  She is both succor, nurturer, killer, and destroyer, and she loves as a wolf loves, wild and fierce, or perhaps as a starving shrew that will eat its young.

In my dreams elves and fey have fled from her as she leads the Wild Hunt, “The Mother is coming!” they cry, racing through twilit woods as her hounds bay and Death approaches.  She is Queen of Death and Rot, Queen of New Life and Creation – no one higher, nothing more than the whole universe and nothing less than every single being and atom in the cosmos.

She has warned of her arrival for decades now in my life – whispers among angels of the Mother, among nature gods of where their powers come from.  So far removed from Her Children, watching on and caring little for our little worries and despairs – no, that is why she created the spirits as intercessors – She has a much higher vision and work to attend to.

I am the Icarus that flies to close to her brilliance, so intoxicated by Her I go mad.

God is Woman.  God is Wild.

God-Mother

Will Swallow

You Whole.

Madness and Dreams of an Eden in Exile

Journal entries from a series of dreams I had when I was 19.  He’s been telling me stories since I was born.

Long ago, it happened.  A reflection in the hourglass, the lip where sand siphons into the void.

He gave me the heart from his breast.  His ribs grew into the Tree.  It throbbed in his hand like a secret.  I took it, terrified.

“It is yours,” he whispered.  Tears softened his stony eyes.  “It always has been.  Take it.  It will set you free.”

“But I don’t want it! All I want is to be with you-”

“Eve!” he cried, clasping his hands around mine.  They trembled, and that scared me more than the gaping wound in his chest. He had never been afraid.  “Please.  If you do not, you will die.”

“But this is our home-”

“You do not belong here.”  He pressed it to my lips.  I swallowed it against my will and it sunk into me like Zagreus’ heart.  I gasped, feeling it root into me.  I crumpled against him as the change took me.  He cradled me, murmuring in a language I did not understand.

“You’re coming with me!” I pleaded.  “You must.”

“I cannot.  Be free of me.”

It was a gift humanity needed.  One I never wanted.  They mock me and say Adam and I ate the child of Samael, so his evil entered our hearts.  That the Nachash injected his filth, zuhama, sin, into Chava.

How they lie.

“I love you.” I told him.

He just held me, burrowed his face into my neck.  “Please,” he asked.  “Never forget me.”  He draped his cloak around my shoulders and cried.

With that, he banished me.

It was good I did not look back.  If I had, it would have broken me.

I have seen the scars I gave him, the sklerokardia of his soul.  It is a black rot like a graveyard that eats away at his bones.  He carries the pain with him everywhere.  The abyss that I alone know.

 

 

Morning came to the ruins of Paradise.  Its heart was gone, and the Angel of Edom slumped against the Tree, the dead vine he had planted so long ago.  In millenia it would blossom, bearing the names of all God’s creatures, and he would tend it as the Angel of Death.

Morning came harsh and red, with burning skies and cold.  He rotted that night, his humanity sacrificed, and only the moon took pity on him.  He had lost the strength to stand, so he leaned against the trunk, dreaming of me.  When he could not lean he fell, the king stripped of his glory and cast out like morning trash.

Samael bore his pain for me, for the children of the world, and the mask of a smile settled on to his face.  It is the one he bares now, that of a predator, whose light does not reach his eyes.   He writhed in the dirt and was cursed.  Breath fled him, and the sag of his chest as his lungs went haunt me to this day.

The poison spread through him, blackening his veins, turning his eyes to blood.  He had given me the power to walk out of Eden but sacrificed his own legs.  My freedom cost him his humanity, and with his sacrifice, Samael lost that which made him a man.

They say he is cursed above all livestock.  That he crawls on his belly like a beast.  That he will kill you, if you ask him his secrets.

He wears his scars as his crown.  His disfigurement is his glory, the pride of all of Hell.  Long before the Second Adam has or will hang on the Tree of Life, the first one died on the Tree of Death, cold and alone as venom wept from his stigmata.  St. Francis saw a seraph on a cross that cried out my name, Havah, as he was burned from the inside out.  No better punishment for rebellious Sons than sacrifice.

I died many times after that night, as Sinann at Connla’s well, seeking the Salmon of Wisdom.  The River Shannon drowned me.  It bears my name.  I was Psyche in the depths of Hell, peering at the knowledge of love.  The Magdalene at the necromancer’s grave.

Through all this time, I have waited, for Thanatos to remember what he is.  Through the ages I have searched for the wisdom that could have saved him.

Someday I will take Washington’s axe to the Lote Tree of the Outer Boundaries.  I will chop at the heartwood of the universe until enfettered Samrafil is freed.  I will save him, my weary angel, and his eyes will be blue again, and the Zu bird and seraphim will sing.  Israfel will sing, and finally, Michael will laugh.

The roots of the Tree shook as his corpse stiffened.  The sun burnt off his skin, and he shed his manhood.  In place of his legs was the tail of a snake, long as days and black like the poison cobra.

I have seen it lash the Damned and leave trails of blood in the prisons of Gehenna.  The scales shined under the hellfire in a warehouse that smells of rot.  He carried me as he had in my youth, and I clung to the monster I knew in the belly of the beasts.  It rang with the mad screams and laughter of the Fallen.  Some are his brethren, others beasts older than angel or man.  All so terrible even Lucifer locked them away.

They fell silent at the sight of him.  In that moment, I knew Samael was more loathsome than all the pit’s Damned, and he cast me into a pool of his blood, smiling that masked smile that is a stain.  He touched my breast and opened my heart, showing me my future.

We are imprisoned together in the foulest cage in Gehenna.  I am his Sigyn, but unlike Loki, the snake is inside him.  He sheds his scales madly, tearing at his flesh, trying to get the rot out of him.  The cage’s ceiling is lower than a child and I lie in his coils, uselessly trying to soothe him.  He whimpers one moment and rages the next, pleading with me:

“Havah.  Havah.  Where is my heart?  Can you see the stains on my soul?  Love me, Shana, redeem me.”

He is blind and does not see me.  He cannot hear my voice.  He just knows that I am there, and though I touch him, he does not feel me.  He cries in his new flesh and looks below his waist to see the serpent tail still there.  He roars and tears open his breast, ripping out the rot that festers within.  It falls in stinking piles to the floor, raining on the demons below us.  They screech as its acid eats their flesh.

I live in his blackened blood and push his husks from the cage.  I wonder who put him here.  If like Skadi I imprisoned him.  If I did, one day, I would stay, and I know it with a certainty that twists my gut.  My love would damn me.

His hands leave my breast, and the future vanishes.

“Blood for blood,” he tells me.  “That is the law of Hell.”

Perhaps he was making an investment when he gave me his heart.  So that I would owe him my life.  The debt will be paid upon his damnation and I will become his warden, like he was mine long ago.

But this is now.  We are in the Pit.  Monsters escape and he beats them into submission.  They know no other rule than brutality, no higher moral then the lash.  Samael is disgusted by them, and beats them even harder because in them, he sees himself.  They grovel at his feet and their blood paints his black scales red.

When we leave and I peer over his shoulder, I see he is crying in anger.  I think he must cry every time he makes rounds, and I wonder why he bothers.  Why he does not set the horde free.  He hears my sobs and berates me, telling me to be strong.  But I cling to his back and bury my face in his wings, hiding myself from the world.

The monsters mock me, and I curse them, tell them they should kiss his feet, that he is more noble than all of Heaven.  I yell that no other archangel could bear his lot or had the strength to sacrifice himself to the Pit.

He puts his gore-covered hands over my lips to silence me. And I see in his eyes that he loves every one of the wretched prisoners.  He takes the keys of hell from his neck and gives them to me.

“Lock them in,” he tells me.  He dares me to lock him in too and stands inside the seventh gate, arms folded across his chest.  I throw the keys into the blood, crush them into the ground.

For a moment, his face is raw, but the hardness sets in again.  He laughs harshly and slithers out, slamming the gates with his tail.  He grabs my forearm and takes me above, away from the tormented screams.

Later that night, in the courts of Hell, he drinks sinner’s blood with demon lords.  They purify souls by consuming sin, absolving the damned.  Later, we dance, and he presses fruit to my lip, red as blood.  Hell’s nobility waltz to a Devil’s interval, chimeras of angel and beast.  He stops in the middle and dips me.  A mad smile plays on his lips:

“Eat it for me,” he whispers.  “I picked it just for you.”

It is his own mad joke.  Hungry, I nibble at it, having refused the food of the dead.

He watches me longingly, wishing he could enjoy simple things.

“Is it sweet?” he murmurs.

“Just like you.”

He snarls to hide his embarrassment.  I roll my eyes at him.

“Don’t taunt dragons,” he warns.

I pinch his cheeks.  “I saw you blush.”

He has haunted me through the ages, always just out of touch.

 

 

I remember a time when he was not hardened.  When the Tree was a hollow husk.

He looked at himself and wept, knowing what he would become.  Hell’s warden and Judge, the one that children fear and men curse.

In the red morning his brother found him.

“What have you done?” Michael roared.  His flaming sword fell from his hands and golden Michael fell to his knees.  The archangel’s cries filled the sky like thunder.  To him, Samael was hideous, unwhole and impure, with a love that had corrupted him.  He had stolen heavenly fire and given it to a mortal that shouldn’t exist.

He would have killed me, I suppose, if Samael hadn’t stopped him.

He didn’t lift a finger against Michael.  Weak, Samael could not rise, and he dragged himself on his stomach, clawing his way to his twin.  He reached for his brother’s feet, the ones that had crushed his skull.

Michael backed away, unable to look at Samael.  “You have cursed the world,” he mourned.

Samael looked at his brother with a blank face.  His mouth opened as if begging for water, and a serpent tongue flicked past his lips.  He could not form words, but his eyes shone:

Why is this my fate?

Some say Michael has not smiled since.  He covered his brother with his cloak, hiding his hideousness, then left him there, alone.  Earthquakes rumbled through Eden as Paradise was destroyed.  The world was being born, but it was born in fire and blood.  The birth pangs claimed Samael as tithe and swallowed him into the pit.  Newborn and useless, he could not even hang onto the tree, and for a second time he fell.

In the darkness, he grew strong.  I would dream I saw through his ribs, occupied the place of his heart, and that he carried me through the world in his breast.  As if I was a yellow, caged canary meant to light the abyss.  When night came to the wastelands, I thought it was his cloak that covered the sky.

I imagined many things in those days.  Each night, he came to me in dreams, as he is the lord of them.  I would have wasted away with yearning, had I not his child to raise.

Yes, his child.

Perhaps one night I strayed from Adamah.  In the moonlight I went to the river.  I bathed, and in the reflection I saw the woman I had become.  I floated on my back down the current, willing it to take me to the land of the dead, and rounded a bend in the river.

A gnarled tree clawed at the sky, hanging over the water like a widow.  I saw a thick root wrapped around it and thought it a monstrous vine.  But the root constricted around the trunk.  It was the body of a monstrous snake.  I stood speechless as he descended from the canopy, immaculate as before above the waist, still pale as the moon, but below that, now a monster.  The wound I had given him was still fresh, and his eyes now glowed red like death.  Their color before, like wine, was reddened in sorrow, as if he had cried so much the iris bore scars.

His face was the same.  Though cruel, he was beautiful.  I tried to give him back his heart.  He would not take it.  He said I must bear the light, and that the flower within me was ready to bear fruit.  I asked him what I carried within me, and he said that it was an idea.

Bitterly, he told me what he had become.

“I will love you no matter what you are,” I said.  His eyes quieted to the color of purple wine.  I meant it, and I still do.  If he is Fenrir or the Dragon, I will be beside him until the end.

He asked me an impossible thing.

“Promise me you’ll come back,” he begged.  “You cannot die, Havah.  Somehow, come back for me, when the light has left your eyes.  Do not- do not leave me alone.”

We had one night.  It was enough for a lifetime.  In the morning he vanished, like a dream.

If you love something, you let it go.  I flew like a butterfly from his hands.

That is why he loves them, souls.

Because they are all he wants and can never have.

He tried to hold me.  I slipped through his fingers like sand.

Angel Mother

“When you see Her you will die,”
Michael whispers in my ear, puts his
peacock hands over my eyes, then
takes me RUSH BLOW BOOM to Her.

God-Mother is ells tall, pine-barren
lumber over a waterfall, windblown
boulders in a storm, gale in the
reeds, eye of the tempest, heart
of a firestorm inferno, rainy marsh.

I cannot see, I cannot see Her, just
smell loam and smoke, She is All,
She is All, and we are just playthings
in Her inexorable crystal dove hands.

There are some things even angels
cannot fathom, some Mothers eat
their young, Death is just Her maw
the Earth Her womb, I am blind, blind
so in love, heartdrenched, when my
hourglass breaks, oh, then
I’ll see – “You will Know.”

Until then, we dance, waltzing
on the Holy Spirit’s lips.